Take 'deschooling' for example: in the early days, as evidenced by my blog, I wasn't even convinced that it was necessary - just a 'good idea' for those who choose it, perhaps especially the children who had a bad school experience. After several months I acknowledged that it is invaluable for anyone coming out of school... to the point now where my most recent comment to a new HEor was as follows:
"My boys de-schooled far more quickly than I did! It takes a good while to get your own adult head around a different way of learning, so it's wise not to set any expectations or demands on them/ yourself until you've had several months of just chilling, reading around on the subject and generally enjoying playing and being with each other"
You see, I am now totally convinced of the following few points:
- Deschooling is an essential process that all PARENTS (and children to a lesser degree) need to go through when they take their child(ren) out of school.
- It is vital for radically resetting preconceptions on how learning works, particularly as pertaining to the individual child's personality and the family's needs.
- Basic requirements are lots of play, rest and relationship building, as well as reading up on HE styles and chats with other home educators on the practicalities involved etc.
It is also my opinion that structured work or evidence of learning demanded by the parent can really hinder the deschooling process. A child who leaves school and starts HE wanting to do workbooks is less likely to be a child who naturally learns that way, and more likely to be a child who has forgotten how to learn in any other way that having their work planned for them. Many times now I have heard new HE parents happily claim that they don't need to deschool as their child wants a timetable with workbooks etc, only to be bewildered by hitting a wall weeks or months later. If a child demands work I would go along with that happily, but be prepared that at some point probably not too far away, said child is quite likely to suddenly turn their back on the workbooks and laminated timetable. This is the daunting bit for new home educators that requires the adult supporting the child's rejection of traditional school-based learning methods, and embracing the "de-schooling" process - for as long as it takes.
In our experience, we have had seasons of happy, parent-instigated learning (most often the boys take over quickly and run as far as they want to with it), followed by more clunky seasons where the boys suddenly ("suddenly" usually means I didn't spot the warning signs) don't want to do anything I suggest, or I start to wobble about what we should be doing. These are the seasons that usually signify another wave of de-schooling: time to take the foot off the pedal and free-wheel a bit while the children find their direction and enthusiasm again or I jettison another chunk of irrelevant school-based assumptions. The lovely thing, now that I have a good couple of years experience under my belt, is that I know these are seasons: they come and go. An 'out-of-the-blue' week refusing to do any maths does not mean they will never get any GCSEs and will be lucky to get a job in McDonalds - it just means they are fed up with maths for now, but will regain their interest in a couple of months or so.
Deschooling may not be for everyone - I guess a home educated parent who has never sent their child to school would probably be far ahead of the curve of most of us - but even so, I am now quite passionate about the benefits - even the necessity - of deschooling... and I'm so happy to be able to share that with my sister, with new contacts, and anyone else who could use the encouragement!